Meat scandal "drags down" some cadres of muslim-based party

Meat scandal "drags down" some cadres of muslim-based party

The General Chairman of Muhammadiyah, Din Syamsuddin.(ANTARA)

Din Syamsuddin, the general chairman of the one of the country`s major Islamic organizations, Muhammadiyah, said the case was a big problem for Muslims because it showed that Muslim-based parties in reality could not present Islamic values.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has made a move that "shocked" some Indonesian people earlier this year when it announced bribery allegations against several prominent figures of Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

PKS is supposed and expected to become a role model in the fight against the country`s rampant corruption practices.

But, last January, KPK arrested Juard Effendi, the director of meat importer company PT Indoguna Utama, over a bribe worth Rp1 billion to Ahmad Fathanah, a close aide of Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, the then PKS president.

The amount of cash money was said to be part of a total of Rp40 billion bribe money as commitment fees to secure up to 8,000 tons in a meat import power.

KPK also arrested three other suspects allegedly involved in the beef import scandal, namely Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, PT Indoguna Utama executive Arya Abdi Effendi, and Ahmad Fathanah.

KPK spokesman Johan Budhi told a press conference that "In our case expose, we learned that JE and AAE (PT Indoguna directors Juardi Efendi and Arya Abdi Effendi) gave the money to AF (PKS staffer Ahmad Fathanah)."

Arya Abdi Effendi, Juard Effendi and Fathanah were arrested during the Jan. 29 bust, while Lutfhi Hassan was detained on January 30, 2013.

"But we also found strong indications, supported by enough evidence, that AF intended to give the money to the politician identified as LHI (Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq)," Johan Budi added.

The corruption watchdog said Luthfi has "influence over party members in both the House`s agriculture commission and the Ministry of Agriculture".

Luthfi Hasan Ishaq denied the allegation. He resigned on January 31, 2013, as the PKS president moments before he was driven to the KPK detention house.

"Certainly I would not accept bribe, not me nor my party and the cadres of the Prosperous Justice Party," he said in a statement.

He said he was shocked on hearing his name was in the list of suspects in the case.

"It is part of political struggle. PKS must continue to grow with or without me," he added. He called on his party cadres to remain committed to fighting corruption to free the country from corruption.

On February 1, 2013, the PKS named Muhammad Anis Matta as the party`s new president to replace Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq.

"(We have) named Muhammad Anis Matta as president of the Prosperous Justice Party," the chairman of the party`s supervisory board, Hilmi Aminuddin, said announcing Anis`s appointment at the press conference at the party headquarters.

Hilmi said the supervisory board meanwhile had also named M Taufik Ridho, the party`s executive chairman for youth and professional affairs, as the new party secretary general.

"It is a conspiracy to topple PKS," Anis Matta said referring to the recent arrest of Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq.

In view of that Anis Matta who is currently also deputy house speaker, called on party cadres to join hands and work hard and pray for God`s help to fight it.

"There will be no time for a sleep as of today," he said at the conference packed with party cadres who kept shouting "God is Great during his speech.

PKS was recently confirmed as one of the ten political parties allowed to participate in the next general elections in 2014.

In this current Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration, two ministerial posts are filled by PKS cadres, namely the Agriculture Ministry and the Communication and Informatics Ministry.

On February 13, 2013, President Yudhoyono called Agriculture Minister Suswono to explain about the country`s cow meat import policy.

"The president called me just now to ask for information and my explanation orally and in writing. I have submitted the written report and today I explained in detail about cow meat imports," Minister Suswono said after meeting the head of state at the president`s office.

He said he told the president that there was no irregularity in the implementation of cow meat imports. The decision on quota allocation for 2013 was made in December 2012, he added.

"The quota and its allocation had been discussed in a meeting in the office of the coordinating (economic) minister. The initial data was presented by the agriculture ministry after a decision was taken in the meeting. Allocation of meat import quota is given in accordance with the companies requesting for the quotas. And the companies are registered as importers in the trade ministry," he said.

In response to the press` questions, the minister said the ministry had nothing to do with the legal case of Luthfi Hassan who could not interfere the ministry in issuing (meat import) policies.

Antigraft investigators, however, questioned Minister Suswono on February 18, 2013, as a witness against the four suspects.

The KPK alleged that Suswono and Luthfi met with two meat industry executives, including Elizabeth Liman, the chief director of Indoguna, in Medan, North Sumatra, in mid-January, reportedly to discuss the awarding of the beef import contracts from the Agriculture Ministry.

Muhammad Assegaf, one of Luthfi`s lawyers, claimed that the meeting was about preparations for an upcoming ministry seminar on ensuring sufficient meat supplies for the public.

"Luthfi was merely concerned about the rampant use of rat meat and pork [amid a beef scarcity]," Assegaf said recently.

"He wanted to make sure that Suswono, as the agriculture minister and a PKS member, would address this problem and not give the party a bad reputation," he said.

The government had set the beef import quota for this year at 80,000 tons, and awarded import contracts to 67 firms, among other thing them Indoguna.

The company initially won a contract to import 2,400 tons of beef. However, after the House decided last month to increase the quota by 15,000 tons, Indoguna reportedly got the contract to supply half of this additional amount.

The company reportedly promised to pay Luthfi Rp 5,000 for every kilogram of beef it was allowed to import.

Luthfi and the three other suspects face bribery charges that carry a maximum prison sentence of six years.

On February 25, the KPK questioned Ridwan Hakim, the fourth son of Hilmi Aminuddin, as a witness in the case centering on the government`s beef importation program.

Ridwan is alleged to have been involved in the graft case in his role acting on behalf of a property businessman who procured beef for meat-importing company PT Indoguna Utama.

He is also alleged to have gained access for the businessman, identified as Sengman Tjahja, to his father, who would later influence the decision within the Agriculture Ministry.

Ridwan`s father, Hilmi, is the chairman of the PKS` consultative council (Majelis Syuro) whose responsibilities include deciding the party`s stance regarding certain issues. He also has the authority to select party officials and evaluate their performance.

Hilmi selects PKS candidates for strategic positions such as ministers, state company executives, legislators, councilors and local administration leaders.

Commenting on the arrest of the former PKS president, noted Muslim leader Din Syamsuddin said such as arrest could affect other Islamic parties.

"I was really shocked to hear the arrest of the PKS president, which certainly would not only affect him but also his party as well as other Islamic parties," Din Syamsuddin, the general chairman of the one of the country`s major Islamic organizations, Muhammadiyah, said.

He said the case was a big problem for Muslims because it showed that Muslim-based parties in reality could not present Islamic values.

"Some therefore have joked that Islamic parties are now not different from secular parties. In positive terms all Islamic parties fight for Islamic values but in negative terms many of their figures have been summoned by KPK," he said.

Din said the case must be used for introspection by all parties including state officials, legislative and executive members and political party leaders with regard to corruption fight.(*)